ACC Football Thursday/Friday Preview


 Present Opening

And so let’s not waste any time. Let’s get right into the game everyone has been waiting for….Presbyterian at Wake Forest! FINALLY!


But you’ll have to wait to get to that one, since North Carolina at South Carolina technically kicks off first. That’s what we call in this business a “tease”. Nailed it.




Time: 6:00 p.m.



CLOWNEY CLOWNEY CLOWNEY CLOW…wait, sorry. South Carolina has other players. I forgot. While containing South Carolina’s dynamic defensive end will be important, it’s not the UNC offense that can win or lose the game. It’s the defense. The Tar Heel front is almost 50 pounds smaller on average than the Gamecocks’ mammoth offensive linemen. While UNC’s secondary is mostly intact from last year, it didn’t play all that well last year. If South Carolina puts together clock-killing drives and moves the ball methodically down the field, it’s not going to matter how fast the UNC offense plays. Or what Jadeveon Clowney is doing. Unless Steve Spurrier puts him in at fullback. (Which would be awesome.) The defense needs to get stops.


CLOWNEYYYYYY!!!! No? Again, he’s a factor. But he’s not THE factor. The Gamecocks have  some issues in the linebacking corps with experience, and the secondary is talented but unproven. There’s no D.J. Swearinger. So in theory, North Carolina should be able to move the ball. And so the Gamecocks are going to have to play well offensively – or well enough, anyway – and keep it mistake-free. Win the time of possession battle, score points and eat up clock and leave the rest to the defense. Oh, and keep the ball away from the Tar Heel offense. That’s really all the Gamecocks have to do. There’s some inexperience at running back and wide receiver, but this is still the SEC, after all. They’ll manage. And Connor Shaw is an experienced quarterback. As long as he doesn’t turn it over and – wait for it – “manages the game”, that’s all that’s necessary.


This section is named after Monday Night Football’s own Jon Gruden. For special games, I will channel his spirit to discuss some standout players. And Gruden loves every player ever.

(Gruden voice)

This guy, Eric Ebron, here’s a guy who is a real matchup problem at tight end. The Tar Heels can use him almost like a wide receiver, and he’s so big that he just trucks right over those little ole’ DBs, but he’s too fast for linebackers to catch! Twelve touchdowns? Come on, Coach Fedora. THIS GUY CAN SCORE 1,200 TOUCHDOWNS!

(End Gruden voice)

Ebron was alternately exhilarating and maddening to watch last year, and often from one snap to the next. He appears to be motivated and focused, and his skill set could present a challenge to the young and untested back end of South Carolina’s defense.


(Gruden voice)

Connor Shaw, here’s a guy who can really change the game at quarterback. Yeah, everyone wants to talk about Jadeveon Clowney this and that, but I’ll tell ya, this Shaw kid is really something else. He can run. He can throw. He’s JUST A FOOTBALL PLAYER. The kid is a winner, and a real game-winner with football savvy.

(End Gruden voice)

Shaw is 17-3 as a starter and completed nearly 68% of his passes for 17 touchdowns and just seven touchdowns a year ago. He also had 435 yards rushing (three touchdowns). UNC has struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks in the past, and Shaw should be a year better and ready to make the South Carolina offense more dynamic. He just needs to take care of the ball against a UNC defense that thrived on turnovers a year ago. 


South Carolina has won 13 straight opening games, the last loss coming in 1999 to N.C. State, a 10-0 classic. Spurrier is 22-1 in opening games as a head coach, with the only loss coming to South Carolina … while he was at Duke (in 1989). … The last time these two teams played, South Carolina won an extremely ugly affair in Chapel Hill, 21-15, in 2007. That win put the Gamecocks at 6-1. The stench of that game lingered oppressively over that bunch, though, as they went on to lose their final five games to finish 6-6.


North Carolina Win: An ACC team beat an SEC team? Surely, you jest. Perhaps the entire South Carolina lineup caught the flu. Or maybe they just weren’t fired up to play a lowly ACC team. It’s almost like opening with a I-AA team for them, after all. 

North Carolina Loss: SEC > ACC and Jadeveon Clowney should be the president of the universe! MOAR CLOWNEY! MOOOOOAAAAAR!!!!! Also? North Carolina’s “finesse” offense can’t stand up to the “big boy” SEC brand of football, baby!!!!


South Carolina, 33-24. And North Carolina’s 24 points will all by field goals. (Not really.) But seriously, this could be a game that either feels close throughout and South Carolina pulls away late, or that North Carolina comes back from a large deficit to make it closer than it seemed by the end. Either way, it’s a moral victory and so it might be the most #goacc game of the weekend. 


Time: 6:30 p.m.

TV: Raycom 


Moving the ball, early and often. Anyone remember last year’s season opener for the Deacons against Liberty? You know, the one that meant Wake Forest was going to be bad, and then that went away when Wake beat North Carolina, but then it came back again when the rest of the season happened? Presbyterian is not as good as Liberty. Not even close. And the Presbyterian defense was as full of holes as an old pair of panty hose. Or an old pair of … Blue Hose. (I’m sorry.) So Wake needs to prove that its new-and-improved offense can move the ball against a hapless defense like this one if the Deacs expect to move it against ACC competition. 


This is a school that was founded on religion … so … prayer? While a little prayer never hurt anyone, PC’s head coach William Wallace rold Nichols would probably rather the Blue Hose just stop the run. Nichols hired former Presbyterian head coach Tommy Spangler to be his defensive coordinator this past offseason, and that can’t hurt. Especially since last year, Presbyterian gave up over 290 yards per game on the ground. Wake Forest suffered offensively last year because it couldn’t run the ball consistently, and if the Blue Hose can make Wake one-dimensional, they can at least give the Deacs a … run (See what I did? Run? Like a run in panty hose? Oh, forget it). 


Josh Harris. Yeah, the Wake running game is already a storyline. But the senior tailback was declared academically ineligible late this summer, but an NCAA appeal was granted and he’s back with the Deacs. His 364 rushing attempts and 1,760 yards are the most of any active ACC player, but he has yet to repeat the success he had as a freshman (720 yards). Wake needs someone, anyone, to get the ground game going and Harris is the most likely candidate. But he needs to show head coach Jim Grobe that he’s trustworthy. 

(Another random fact? There are three Josh Harris’s on the Wake roster. But due to seniority, the tailback Harris gets to be just “Josh Harris”. There’s a freshman offensive lineman “Josh T. Harris” and a sophomore walk-on cornerback “Josh M. Harris”. Oh, and there’s a Tylor Harris and Tyree Harris.) 


Running back Demarcus Rouse had nine of Presbyterian’s 23 touchdowns last year, and he averaged over six yards a carry. But the senior only carried the ball 67 times. The most rushing attempts he’s ever had in a game? Twelve. Still, he has the potential to break off a big run or two if the Wake defense isn’t paying attention. 


This is Presbyterian’s 100-year anniversary of football! No, really, it is. And the Blue Hose had an above-.500 record until joining Division I a few years ago. … Four of those wins (and a tie) came against Wake Forest, all between 1926-30. And the tie came in 1929, a 0-0 thriller that came down to the final buzzer or bell or whatever was being used in the 1920’s. … Presbyterian’s kicker Aaron Mayes made just 3-of-12 field goals last year. That’s … not very good. 


Wake Forest Win: Jim Grobe has lost a step? Hardly. Wake Forest could contend in the Atlantic! (This is said especially after the rest of the Atlantic Division teams not named Clemson and Florida State look terrible in Week 1, probably.) 

Wake Forest Loss: PANIC, FIRE AND BRIMSTONE AND ALL OF THE FACEPALMS! Also, how long does an ACC title free pass last for Jim Grobe? A loss to the mighty Blue Hose might just mean an early expiration date. 


Wake Forest, 52-17. Listen, no one runs trick plays like Jim Grobe. So he will show the Blue Hose no mercy as a measure of revenge for this:




Time: 8:00 p.m.



The defense gaining confidence early. Yes, it’s just FAU, a team that is still deciding between four (!!!) candidates at quarterback. But Miami had one of the most horrid defenses in the ACC last year in a league filled with horrid defenses. The Hurricanes were picked to win the Coastal Division, and part of that thinking was that their defense should be much-improved. They have the pieces. The key is making sure they dominate a team like Florida Atlantic the way they should. Last year, the Hurricanes let Boston College’s struggling offense put up 31 points in Week 1, and despite some bright spots here and there, that kind of set the tone for the season. They need to set a positive tone this year. 


Continue to differentiate yourself from Florida International by not firing your head coach promptly after losing this game. You know, just so we can remember which is which. So there’s FAU/FIU, and now there are two Pelini’s in college football (Bo’s brother Carl is in his second year as FAU’s head coach). Just stop it. If Pelini’s know one thing, though, it’s defense. And Carl had better have his FAU defense on a steep learning curve, because Miami’s offense was explosive a year ago and should be even better this year. FAU generally has some athletes on the roster on both sides of the ball, but so does Miami. And they have more. Still, FAU won’t come close in a shootout so the defense has to be tough.


Duke Johnson. Miami’s sophomore phenom tailback-return man-athlete extraordinaire has high expectations coming into this season, but somehow they seem reasonable. Especially since he had 1,003 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns in Miami’s last four games in 2012. He ended last season with 947 yards on the ground on just 139 carries (6.8 per carry) and added 892 yards on kickoff returns. Miami didn’t give him the ball enough at times last year, but that was mostly rectified by the end of last season. If Miami’s running game is going to turn around, he’ll be the reason why, and he’s reason enough. (Also, he’s just fun to watch for the rest of us.) 


William Dukes, kind of because his name is similar to Duke Johnson and kind of because he was the only option that stuck out for FAU. The 6-4 junior wide receiver somehow managed to rack up nearly 1,000 yards receiving last year in spite of being on a woeful offense. He had five catches or 98 yards at Georgia a year ago and in the last three games of 2012, he had 424 yards on 24 catches. Miami’s secondary struggled at times last year (those times being mostly when games were being played), and Dukes is a dangerous player. Fortunately for Miami, though, he’s about it.


This is, oddly enough, Miami’s first meeting with Florida Atlantic. … Here’s another weird stat – this is Miami’s 285th Friday night game in program history (seriously, it’s in the game notes). The Hurricanes are 171-103-10 in those games). … The Hurricanes are 10-1 in their last 11 home openers, but 5-0 in Sun Life Stadium. … Think Miami’s been unlucky the last few years? Under Al Golden, Miami is 3-3 when committing no turnovers and 8-9 when forcing three or more. I’m not even sure how that’s possible.


Miami Win: The U = back! Swagger = back! Oh, but wait … the mighty SEC team Florida is coming to town in Week 2 so none of that matters. 

Miami Loss: The ACC is terrible and Miami is not “back”! The U will never get back to its glory days, and did anyone mention the ACC is terrible?


Miami, 62-12. Why did you go for two, Florida Atlantic? It could have been 62-14. This is the type of game Miami needs to win convincingly to carry some of that whole “The U” thing from bygone days into their Week 2 matchup with Florida.

And just in case you get confused – Florida Atlantic is NOT FIU. In case you forget, know that FIU was the team Miami had a brawl with in 2006, causing Lamar Thomas to threaten to fight everyone.